Posted by: nestaquin | January 4, 2011

Steve Smith: Batsman, Bowler or Specialist Fieldsman?

When Steve Smith was called into the BaggyGreen squad after the capitulation in Adelaide there was more hype surrounding his selection than Lady Gaga received for her latest nearly pornographic music video.

There was plenty to like. He was young. He was a leg spinner. He did well at Lord’s. He could handle a bat and he learned his cricket in New South Wales. However, like the pap that Gaga produces, when you scratched the surface and looked a little deeper there was little of substance underneath.

As far as I can tell Smith is a specialist fieldsman and a very good one at that. He isn’t a Test batsman. His innings and modes of dismissal in this series stand testament to that sad fact. At present, he isn’t a Test match bowler either. He’s only thrown the ball as a last resort when all else has failed.

So the question needs to be asked, why is he in the team?

Tim Nielsen spoke of how Smith would bring enthusiasm and energy to the squad and I was surprised that so many swallowed that gift wrapped spinning turd. Someone should inform Tim that runs and wickets decide Test matches not trying hard and being a nice bloke. Additionally, and this should be obvious to most, if you are playing for your country in an Ashes Test in front of a packed stadium you shouldn’t need any extra motivation nor an example set by a kid who is more familiar with zit cream than the foamy shaving stuff.

Surely, with Australia’s batting failing to score 300 plus with any regularity what’s needed is some stability and grit in the middle to lower order. For all his failings Marcus North did put a high price on his wicket and when he got in he invariably went on with it. Not that I’m advocating for North’s reintroduction but the team needs a specialist batsman, preferably an experienced one that can recognise when to attack and when to defend.

Thankfully for Australian cricket, Smith is a wrist spinner, one reminiscent of a young pudgy Warne, and the Test team desperately needs a leggie. However, I feel that the selectors, by using Smith primarily as a batsman, are doing the kid and Australian cricket no favours whatsoever.

He should be spending his practise time refining the very difficult and dark art of wrist spin especially with Shane Warne available while following the circus around the continent in his commentating role.

Instead, the selectors and coaching staff have him focusing primarily on batting which is a terrible waste considering there are plenty of batsmen available and wrist spinners are as rare as platypus eggs.

In summary, I do not blame Steve Smith for this situation. The fault lies squarely with those that counsel him. For now, Smith should be encouraged to bowl as often as possible in Shield cricket while continuing to play his part for Australia in the shorter forms.

There have been too many mistakes to remember since Nielsen became coach but not harnessing and nurturing the potential of the most promising young leg-spinner in the country is probably the worst. Conceivably the confusion could ruin the lad. I sincerely hope that is not the case.

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  1. I donno about Steve Smith, but a fascinating battle is going on between Steyn Vs Sachin and Morkel Vs Gambhir in Cape Town. I think Sachin is better off facing Morkel and Gambhir would rather face Steyn than Morkel. But the bowlers are not letting the batsmen do any thing other than jab and poke. The only runs are coming through edges.

    The batsmen are patiently waiting for the bowlers to tire, and the bowlers are straining their every sinew.

    Test cricket at its best !

    • Really good series this. The bowling has been spectacular from Steyn.

  2. He’s not going to learn wrist spin playing ODIs and International T20 either.

    • True but he can contribute with the bat and in the field plus get international experience to boot.

  3. If he was a specialist fieldsman, Australia would have left India with at least a drawn series and there would have been no need to select a squad of 17 for the first Ashes test and all the confused selections which followed on from that point.

  4. For sanity’s sake I’d conveniently forgotten that match Jim. Please don’t mention it again. ;)

  5. How many of you see Greg Chappell’s magical hand behind attempts to hone the batting skills of a developing bowler?
    He ruined Irfan Pathan for us, and the poor bloke’s never recovered. Good luck, Australia.

  6. And meanwhile, the test finally tilting SA’s’way after 3 absorbing days. They’ll lose the match but i think india have done enough to show they can compete in Safrica. Better luck next time, India. Proud of you even though you’ll lose

    • Two late wickets and Kallis unable to bat give India a fair chance over the next two days.

      • Nesta, the match looks even because of Bhajji’s double strike now, but if SA manage to set India a target of 250, they (SA) will then be heavy favourites.Steyn is in devastating form, and Morkel is supporting him very well. Even Harris will snare a wicket or two using the rough.

        India can chase any thing over 225 only if Sehwag fires and upsets the well laid plans of Steyn and Co. And that doesn’t look likely as of now. Sehwag is losing his concentration very quickly and succumbing to the wily Steyn.

        • Fat Jacques is doing wonderfully well even if he winces a lot.

  7. Cricketbetlive has the match almost exactly even between the three results, which is pretty much as I see it. Maybe India just ahead as Harris is no man to bowl a side out in the fourth innings.

    • Well, Steyn has been awesome, toots. Just a privilege to watch him and privilege to watch Sachin score that century against him.
      I think a repeat will be too much even for the batting maestro.
      Heck, I think Steyn deserves to end up on the winning side.
      If it were a 5 test series, Saffers’ depth and strength will surely take them past the line? All the more reason they deserve to win this test and series.

  8. Steyn and Sachin. That was as good as it gets. Wonderful cricket. Criminal that isn;t a 5 test series.

    Steyn is a healthy step ahead of Anderson for mine. l really felt for him when he bowled Harbhajhan and the bails didn;t come off!!!

    • Yes, Steyn and Sachin has been superb. Sachin has been batting out of his crease. He has a ton of courage.

  9. although i agree that he is batting out of position and if the selectors would finally realise and rebuilt the top order with proper batsmen, he can be carried in the XI. no doubt both his bowling and to a lesser extent his batting needs work, i just doubt whether shield cricket will give him that chance. 4 day cricket is heavily geared at the moment in favour of quicks with spinners not getting any assistance in terms of turning tracks or trusting capts. ODIs and T20 cricket have spiked the demand for spinners (pretty sure all states are using spin theory for T20) but only in a defensive role in order to stop bleeding runs. factor in the loss of prospects such as cullen bailey or dan cullen and shield cricket just does not stand up as much of a finishing school for spinners. to me smith can only get better playing intl cricket (especially touring overseas) and working with specialist coaches at the highest level. it will also help if selectors can also understand that his primary role is a spinner and everything else that comes with it is a nice bonus.

  10. nesta, you’ll save yourself time and space if you just don’t read what Nielsen says.

    The man is drowning, not waving.

    • Cricket Australia emailed me the video!! I can send them your way or anyone else’s if hypocrisy, newspeak and complete bollocks keeps you amused!

      • They’ve got some cheek.

  11. This aged well.

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